>Building for the poor in Cambodia

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A man works outside the nearly completed maternity hospital last month. The 13-bed hospital is expected to open its doors May 23. David Mackenzie, founder of Operation Temporary Emergency Shelters, hopes to raise $10,000 to help better equip the building.

North Star News,

Wednesday, May 7, 2008
by Stephannie Johnson

PARRY SOUND – In a few weeks’ time, the first rural maternity hospital in Cambodia will open its doors.
Funded with partnerships including Operation Temporary Emergency Shelters (OTES), founded by David Mackenzie, of Parry Sound, the 13-bed hospital was constructed in less than three months.
Although minimally equipped, Mr. Mackenzie is hoping to raise $10,000 for additional equipment before he and his wife Janice make the trip abroad for the opening on May 23.
“This is a big deal for (the Cambodian people) – it’s a monstrous deal for them,” Mr. Mackenzie said. “It’s a 13-bed hospital, by our standards it’s small. For them, it is huge and it’s fully equipped. One of the people that work with (one of the partnering) organizations in Cambodia has connections with upper (levels) of government and he has funded, through the government, the beds, and a lot of the equipment. But he has sent us a list of things that are still remaining to be provided for the hospital.”
The list includes items like bedding, plastic mattresses for babies’ and mothers’ beds, 13 baby beds, and mosquito nets for the babies’ beds.
“They have a mortality rate in Cambodia of 14 per cent, in Canada it’s 0.1 per cent,” he said. “It’s 140 times Canada’s rate and that’s only the children, that’s not including the moms. If a lady were to have a problem in rural Cambodia and she couldn’t afford to get to the hospital, let alone afford the hospital, she’s in bad shape. This is an amazing opportunity for us to be able to do this.”
Through his organization, Mr. Mackenzie also hopes to build modular OTES homes around the hospital. The buildings are micro-financed; homeowners pay whatever they’re paying in rent until it is paid off.
“We learn, very quickly, that you can’t just hand things to people and expect it to last,” he said. “The homes that we have done so far in Guatemala that are like this, the people are out washing them every week, they’re like show homes.”
To keep cost down, inspire a sense of ownership in the projects and keep money in the community, panels for modular homes and the hospital are assembled where the construction is taking place. Between 10 and 20 Cambodians have been working on the hospital since Feb. 18.
“Instead of building the (modular home) panels here and shipping them – which is becoming hugely expensive – we are able to hire people there and keep the money in their economy,” he explained. “We are so privileged and so blessed, because of the advantages that we have with our affluent society. We have a hard time trying to rationalize what these people are going through. You can see all you want on TV, but until you experience it, it doesn’t connect. This is going to save lives. I can’t stress enough how hard it must be for these women that are having problems in their pregnancy. I keep going back to the fact that we, here, just don’t understand this.
“Our society is so in tune to me, me, me, me, me, that’s all that we think about, that’s all that we care about. There, they think about how am I going to get through the day.”
For more information or to donate, go to http://www.otes.ca/.
Mr. Mackenzie founded OTES a decade ago and has built 21 modular homes in Guatemala, constructed a mission home in Nicaragua and three homes with World Vision.
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